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Trump scrambles to sanction former Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil

Gebran Bassil is likely to be targeted by US sanctions [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2020

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Trump’s administration is likely to place sanctions on Gebran Bassil, one of Lebanon's top Christian politicians, in an effort to weaken the Iranian-backed movement Hezbollah.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is gearing up to place sanctions on Friday on Gebran Bassil, one of Lebanon’s most powerful politicians, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Bassil, a Christian, was formerly Lebanon's foreign minister and chairs the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). He is a close ally of the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist organisation.

Trump’s administration attempting to weaken Hezbollah just 11 weeks before the end of the president’s first, and possibly only, term.

The New Arab contacted the US Department of Treasury for more information regarding the sanctions against Bassil but has not yet received a response.

The move has been in the works “for months”, but diverging opinions from senior US officials had stalled it until now, the Wall Street Journal said.

The move is likely to disrupt efforts to form a new Lebanese cabinet, where Bassil in his capacity as the leader of the FPM plays a key role. His blacklisting would “blow up the formation of the government,” a source cited by the WSJ said.

Bassil is also the son-in-law of current Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

In September, the US administration blacklisted two former government ministers in Lebanon, for their relationship with Hezbollah.

Washington imposed sanctions on former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and ex-transport minister Youssef Fenianos.

Hezbollah "condemned and rejected" the move, saying that Trump's administration "will not be able to implement its goals in Lebanon", it said.

The US Treasury Department said that Khalil, who has also served as health minister, helped direct funds to Hezbollah institutions to evade US sanctions against the group.

Fenianos, it alleged, received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from Hezbollah in return for political favours.

The Treasury Department also said he provided sensitive documents to Hezbollah regarding the special UN tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

Hezbollah is the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and has fought several wars with Israel, as well as intervening in Syria’s conflict on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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